A Pair Of Ruby Slippers

January 30, 2008

Clicking Her Heels

Filed under: MACMP — author @ 8:43 pm

the_wizard_of_oz-617.jpgDorothy: Goodbye, Tinman. Oh, don’t cry! You’ll rust so dreadfully. Here’s your oil can.
Tin Woodsman: Now I know I’ve got a heart, ’cause it’s breaking…
Dorothy: Goodbye, Lion. I know it isn’t right, but I’m going to miss the way you used to hollar for help before you found your courage.
Cowardly Lion: I never would’ve found it if it hadn’t been for you…
Dorothy: [to Scarecrow] I think I’m going to miss you most of all.

Next weekend I won’t be sat at this desk either doing or trying to avoid doing my homework. It will be finished, over. The last 15 months have been amazing, interesting, tough, long, short, exhausting and an education. As well as the work stuff (ref rest of this blog) these are some of the things that have happened.

I started this course with a 1 year old daughter and a 4 year old son, she could barely talk and he couldn’t write, she had daily naps and they both went to bed at 7pm. I now have a three year old daughter who doesn’t stop talking and my son, who can now swim and ride a bike, turns 6 next week. She no longer naps and he goes to bed around 8:30. To all of you who thought I was NUTS doing this when they were so young, as they say on bad American soaps…. “You do the math”!

During these 15 months I visited Corsica, Versailles, Disney Paris and The Kent Vineyards. I have booked trips to The Jura, Italy and Madeira. I went from blonde to brunette, put on 7lbs and lost 6 again. I Ran the furthest I have ever done and even went running with my husband for the first time, ever. I changed teams, changed cars and changed my mind about just about everything, twice. With a few friends, I won quiz night and then had to run the quiz night. I have re-connected with some old friends and neglected some newer ones. We have bought 3 new ipods.

I have shed a few tears and threatened to quit over at least two assignments and had my arse kicked into shape each time by my husband. I have written 21,073 words in 31 posts on this blog and 39,343 words in other assignments.

I have felt guilty about spending money on this course, spending time in the evenings doing this course and spending time in the evenings trying not to do this course. I also felt guilty about not dropping my son to his theatre class as I was doing my homework, asking my gorgeous work friends for yet MORE feedback and for not thanking everyone enough for all the above.

Lots of things have happened, much has changed. The one constant has been my Toto. Thank you x

Dorothy: Oh, but anyway, Toto, we’re home. Home! And this is my room, and you’re all here. And I’m not gonna leave here ever, ever again, because I love you all, and – oh, Auntie Em – there’s no place like home!

 

(me a drama queen? Oh please)


January 10, 2008

Faffing About

Filed under: MACMP — author @ 8:29 pm

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This was our major project on the MA. Sadly I faffed around for most of the summer trying to decide what I wanted to study. Actually, that’s rubbish, I had a lovely summer not thinking at all about what I wanted to study, which was probably part of the problem – although I like to think that the break was what I needed (well no one else was going to say it). After much faffing at the start of the unit (true this time) I settled on the future of corporate sites AGAIN as whilst I had studied the history of such sites, I hadn’t really looked to the future. Then I decided that was boring and changed to look at social media for corporates, then I decided that that was too broad so narrowed it down to corporate blogging, but then decided that wouldn’t work so went back to corporate sites (faffing… see?).

After starting to study the future for our corporate site it then struck me that we were going about things in the wrong way, the cart was firmly in before the horse. It was one of those realizations that you try to ignore but they haunt you in the night. So I made a final about turn and changed to consider the case for creating a digital comms strategy at Munchkin Land to inform the decisions taken in the future about the direction of digital comms within the business. This final change was a wrench as I had started the assignment. I hurt with every word I had to delete.

My son’s teacher tells me he has joined up thinking; I felt we should employ some of that wisdom to our situation. We have, until now, created websites in a vacuum, we have not engaged appropriately with the rest of the business to see how best to exploit the opportunities we have. This results in sites that look great but quickly become obsolete. At the other end of things, we have no involvement when functions spend 50K on a crap, internal website by a wobbler and dumpbin agency for about 100 sales reps. (I have checked the usage stats and they are getting a massive 15 visits a month. So if it lasts a year, that is a snip at 278 a visit. They had better be selling a load of pop). We need a fresh approach, one that embeds digital comms in all areas of planning across the board – that’s not to say that it should be involved in everything but it should be considered. Time for Munchkin Land to accept it as just one more form of communication rather than a bolt on accessory.

After completing my project I can see why such a strategy has not yet been implemented. It’s tricky stuff, it involves several people, creates a load of work and necessitates the answering of some tough questions…. Should we have our own brand, should we share sites with our brand owners or the other franchisees? It involves (gulp) change.

There is some headway however, the new cheese for this area is pretty savvy, and she has been here before. I can see her tempering my enthusiasm with some good common sense and business acumen, no bad thing so far. In fact the opposite, she is trying to make changes in this direction, scary really as now I will need to follow through. She told me “be careful what you wish for”, perhaps I should have listened? Nah!

So for now, our digital comms is at an exciting junction. I felt initial reticence from my new team at our joining them (they could sense extra work coming their way I think) but after some frank discussions, I believe they are warming to us and I am realising that I will broaden my skills by learning from them. They are, afterall, communication experts. The marriage of their expertise and mine and my colleagues should be a very strong one indeed.

As for the unit 5 show count, I was clearly in denial as I didn’t buy any for myself but the kids both got a new pair.

January 9, 2008

Just a Little Bit Evil

Filed under: MACMP — author @ 6:17 pm

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Unit 4 was about looking at what a fellow MA-er did for their unit 3 assignment. Fine until you realise that someone will be going over your unit 3 assignment too. Actually it wasn’t so bad, by this point I was getting used to my work being a public thing. I no longer felt the need to run away and hide in a cupboard It was only today that one of my colleagues said he feels like he has done an MA too this last year. Delivering feedback to another student forced me to think carefully about how I would like to receive it as well as look at how they tackled the same brief I had.

As part of this unit I also had to go back over my own unit 3 assignment, this wasn’t as good for me as AI contains a reflexive element anyway so I felt I had pretty much got that licked, I had already studied what I studied (keeping up?). My stupid short attention span was also getting a bit stretched by that point, I was in danger of writing something along the lines of “I don’t care about our bloody team meeting anymore!” if I had to go back over it again.

Unfortunately (maybe) a knock on effect is that I am giving more (considered) feedback to colleagues some of whom get a little defensive, which amuses me, Hah! It’s good to be just a little bit evil.

Another issue for me with this assignment was that as part of this “small” unit I had to evaluate the process of change. This felt like a unit in itself not a fifth of the marks of a small unit. I don’t feel that I really got to the bottom of this for Munchkin Land. Something that really struck me during my research for this unit was how differently change was viewed here from the AI process. At Munchkin Land it seems a change is decided from On High then the “change” is managed by the change management team. If it was AI, the Change Management Team would be making the changes themselves, assessing the outcomes and refining the changes. Whilst clearly not appropriate for everything I would like to see more of this in my workplace. It implicitly views change as something that is continual whereas we tend to see “a change” as something that happens, then is managed through the business and then forgotten. Oh watch out new team…..

Unit 4’s shoe count was a pair of slutty sandals.

January 8, 2008

Action Turn

Filed under: MACMP — author @ 6:06 pm

sleep4.jpgUnit 3 required us to conduct a piece of Action Inquiry in our workplace. I based my inquiry on our team meetings, this was a jointly chosen subject with my then boss and professional advocate as the meeting had become a bit of a bone of contention within the team. It made sense to try and tackle something that would make a difference. The blog posts from this unit can be found in March and April’s archives.

I took with me the learnings from the previous unit and built on the work I had done from Goffman. I tried to build into the assignment write up a sense of what it was like doing this type of work on a part time basis. This was a theme to emerge again in my work and I think it has a resonance with the whole work/life balance debate that surfaces a fair bit in the media at the moment.

Basically I thought that action inquiry was fab. I really got it, actually make a change then see what happens whilst being prepared to change again, build in that eventuality that the first change will not be perfect. Reason and Torbert (2001. p.1) hit the nail on the head for me when they talked about the action turn. AI also built on the reflexive elements of unit two; it gave me a chance to study my role in what I was doing. The team joined in with alacrity which made my task much more pleasurable than it otherwise may have been and I suspect ultimately more successful.

I have since joined a new team and intend to identify areas where I can employ an AI method to change with them when I have spent some time understanding how they currently do things and see what may benefit from this type of approach. I have also found that my attitude to meetings is a little different because of having done this work, when I viewed things from the side of being responsible for them and being the person doing the changing, it made me realise how hard it is if people do not put in some effort (although as I have said the munchkins were excellent). A wizard pointed out that there is a thin line between being a person who challenges and uses scepticism wisely and a common spoil sport.

I remain sceptical of Myers Briggs type exercises but understanding Goffman has given me a different way to approach them, I can now play a different part and with practice will improve in that role. I had my first new team do last week and found it interesting that this is effectively a new show and an opportunity to take on a new role, at least in part. I don’t think anyone noticed that I am still learning my lines.

AI only required me to buy a pair of flip flops, and some nail varnish for my toes.

Under The Spotlight

Filed under: MACMP — author @ 5:47 pm

fresnell.jpgI was dreading this unit and so of course it was the one I enjoyed the most. I knew I would find it tough; talking formally about myself is not something I am fond of. The brief was, basically, to critically reflect on yourself and your experience. You can see my assignment in these blog entries if you wish – https://apairofrubyslippers.wordpress.com/2007/02/

I had two epiphanies during this assignment, which is probably more than in the last 5 years, the first was that I was starting to see the value of a decent theory and how it could impact my work (I would like to add this into my action plan as I think it can have an impact on our future work). I had fought this idea through unit 1 as I saw it as so distinct from the world of work. I had visions of myself having pop cans chucked at me as I delivered a presentation littered with highbrow theoretical references. On reflection perhaps that was a bit optimistic anyway. What I managed to misunderstand was the value that could be delivered to the workplace by using the framework of a decent theory to help explain, understand and change the current situation. It felt to me that theory became like a nice pair of wellies you could put on and splash about in for a bit to see if they made you feel differently about your landscape from the stilettos you were previously wearing. Sorry shoes are creeping in again. For me, theory is about working smarter not harder as the old BT ad used to preach.

The second epiphany was that I could stop apologising for not finding formal disclosure easy and find my own way through it, using theory and being brave (that word again) enough to stand a middle ground that satisfied both the assignment criteria and my own sensibilities. This was something that went on to inform much of the rest of my work for these assignments and began to filter into my professional practice. I am no longer prepared to apologise for being part-time (in fact I think we part timers, who make up a massive 3.7% at Munchkin Land have got several advantages over both full timers and non workers) or female, a mother, an ex-dancer or slightly leftfield. I don’t fit the mould, but it doesn’t matter. It gives me a different perspective, it is why I did this course and not an MBA (yawn) and I can do the splits.

The reflection during this unit also made me realise that unlike most of the others on the MA I was not in love with my media. I could happily work on something else if it was creative, progressive, a little different from the norm and with likeminded people.

This unit also re-acquainted me with a couple of old chums, Mr. Farmer an ex-colleague who used to deliver advice and be a fellow misfit and Mr Goffman (who I had first briefly encountered some years ago). Mr Farmer got involved in my next assignments for which I am grateful and now feel like I could ask him for advice on work matters at any time (I have him captive on Face Book). Mr Goffman provided me with an illumination on what happens in the workplace that made sense for me and continues to inform what I interpret in my working life. His view that we play roles as opposed to have fixed traits was delightfully sensible, well most of the time (see blog posts from this unit as detailed above)

Finally this unit required that we write ourselves an action plan. This required me to ask myself disturbing questions about what I wanted to do with my career. I had neatly avoided these for a few years. I realised that I didn’t really own my own career any more, certainly not for the time being. What I would have wanted to do in career terms if I was not all the things I wrote above (mother mainly) would be very different to how I felt about it when considered as a whole with the other roles I needed to fulfil. That said, I also felt that this may not always be the case so I decided on a course of action to upskill myself rather than setting out career roles as my target. The idea being that when I decided the time was right to push ahead with my career, I wasn’t too far behind.

The plan was the least successful part of my assignment and on reflection this was probably because it is very hard to commit to a course of action career-wise with two small children. Yes I know people do it, actually I do it to a certain extent but (crikey this just sounds like excuses) it really is hard to figure out the logistics of child care alongside the emotional needs of the parent/child relationship and balancing that with work/money/sanity. Good job there are loads of helpful people to point out how you are doing it wrong eh?

This was a tough assignment and required me to purchase three new pairs of shoes.

The History, Boys

Filed under: MACMP — author @ 5:42 pm

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The brief for the first assignment was to take a critical look back over events that had had an impact on our particular areas. My assignment took the form of a really dodgy website (first lesson learnt, leave it to the professionals) which can be found here if you can’t sleep www.apairofrubyslippers.moonfruit.com and if your insomnia is really terrible, the blog posts below from October 2006 till January cover the period. But if your issues are not of a soporific nature, I will outline the major points below.

I chose to look at corporate websites as I was aware that we needed a new one and saw this as a great opportunity to learn from what had gone before. A few golden “rules” for creating a new site started to become obvious from the experiences of the others, they were:

  • Ownership for a corporate site belongs with the External Communications Team and not with IS, Marketing or any others. It should be an integral element of a corporate comms strategy.
  • The site needs a high level sponsor to succeed.
  • Internal procedures need to be in place to ensure the content is updated and remains compelling – a shiny new site will soon look crap without this.
  • Use the corporate site to present the company’s side of issues – but do so in a sensitive manner employing the usual “rules” of communication. It is seen as worse not to engage in debate about yourself these days rather than to take a sensible approach to adding your side.
  • Tackle pressing questions such as the relationship between brand owner and franchise and the US and GB and make a decision about how to present oneself and then stick with it. Currently this is not something that has been bottomed out at Munchkin land
  • Content is still king, do not let design and functionality overshadow it.
  • Beware of the implications of using a CMS – imparting a rigid structure to the site

This unit was useful, it certainly drew out some salient points, which although could have been guessed at, came with solid experience from similar companies. As a business Munchkin Land has made some progress since I wrote this project. The eBusiness Team is no more and after some discussion, the internet and intranet managers’ roles are now within the Public Affairs and Communications team as recommended above. This in turn should help affect the necessary changes to the internal procedures to ensure a new site remains fresh and compelling. We also have budget approval for the new corporate site, gained mainly as we have a high level sponsor in the form of the VP for Public Affairs and Communications, perfect, well getting there.

We have made great progress this year in using the internet to publish our side of issues in the media such as environmental concerns – see www.cokecorporateresponsibility.co.uk . Whilst this took a site of its own, it is the intention to integrate with the new corporate site. I jumped for joy when we got agreement not to publish at all on paper next year (it was a dual effort this year) but then was dismayed to hear it will be on paper and the web again the following year. I have not yet had time to investigate why but will see if that make sense or not. Think of the trees we will save in the meantime and maybe even hug one.

As to the final few points, the way we present ourselves to the outside world has still not been tied down, but we have agreed to differ from the States (with their blessing and involvement) which is a breakthrough and at least now the conversations around this have been started. The point about content will be held in mind when the site is created and the point about the CMS is being taken into consideration and is helping us inform our choice of application.

I needed just one new pair of boots to see me through this first assignment and they weren’t expensive ones.

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